Is Switch from Synthetic to Natural Food Colors a Stepping Stone to Innovation?

Nov 06,2019

In an ever-evolving global market where consumer expectations for natural products are significantly established, natural food ingredients are no longer a thing of the past. In recent years, consumers are increasingly raising their voices through social media and other platforms and asking for natural ingredients including food additives, various types of food flavors, and natural food preservatives. In response, a number of companies and brands are announcing their intention to convert to chemical-free ingredients and shift away from artificial-laden products.

As food companies aim to be a part of a cleaner food future and are investing in development of the next natural food trends, natural food colors are becoming a key area in the food industry. Over the years, synthetic colors had taken the food industry by storm – enabling mass production at a fraction of cost, ensuring longer shelf-life, and providing vibrant color in food. However, several governments raised the awareness of harmful coloring agents containing lead, arsenic, and mercury which were used to hide defective food. In addition, strict rules were implemented to prohibit the use of harmful synthetic colorants in confectionery and to conceal damage or inferiority. Subsequently, natural food colors reappeared on the scene.

Bane for Synthetic Colors – Boon to Natural Food Colors

Food and beverage additives such as color and flavor are important aspects of any food product, and play a vital role in determining the success and failure of new product launches. Significant advances in the area of natural coloring have been broadening the prospects for ways in which natural food colors can be used. Additionally consumer impetus is strong for manufacturers to ‘clean’ up, as reflected in the rapid adoption of natural food colors in new products.

Growing concerns of links between a combination of synthetic colors and child hyperactivity has compelled food manufacturers to switch to natural food colorants. With rapid implementation of government regulations to minimize the use of synthetic colors, manufactures are currently on a quest for natural alternatives, especially plant-based food colors. Moreover, increasing government approval of natural food colors has been gradually bridging the gap between manufacturers and end-use industries.

Plant-based Food Colors Mark the Prominent Trend

Amid the rise of ‘vegan’ culture and ‘clean label’ trends, there is an increasing interest in the discovery of new natural colors. With pervasiveness of food safety issues across the globe and widening media exposure, consumers are increasingly demanding for products that deliver on simplicity in line with easily recognizable lists of ingredients. Therefore, food colors from natural sources are becoming a key focus of new innovations that can expect to win over more consumers in the future. For instance, catering to growing demand for natural, clean label blue and green shades, Naturex – a botanicals company – tapped spirulina extracts. In March 2019, the company announced the development of an extraction line for spirulina-based food coloring. Furthermore, several companies such as Sensient are advancing their natural goals with the development of a new range of red pigments made from superfoods.

In 2018, natural food colors of worth US$ 7.7 billion were sold worldwide, and the industry is required to bring forward new coloring options to match increasing demands of their customers. In addition to new product development, several manufacturers are focusing on improving well-known technologies for formulation and processing of color pigments.

Nanoencapsulation of Natural Food Colorants – A Key to Deal Challenges

Food colorants from natural sources emerge as a great interest for the food industry, delivering a wide range of colors as well as nutraceutical activities. However, introducing these compounds to food is challenging due to their low stability in environmental conditions. Manufacturers are therefore leaning towards nanoencapsulation technologies which provide more surface area along with the potential to enhance solubility and improve bioavailability. Specialized equipment and techniques such as electrospinning, electrospraying, and nano-spray drying are also being adopted for entrapment or nanoencapsulation of natural food colorants.

Mapping a Colorful Path to the Millennial Table

Today, millennial demographic accounts for large share of the global consumers. As synthetic or artificial products fade away from the view, new trends in natural food colors are emerging. While color remains a key driver of food purchase, rapid penetration of internet and social media has placed added pressure on food companies to offer products that are deemed instragrammable. This, in turn, is supporting increased innovation around natural food colors.  Colors which add vibrancy and vibrancy are expected to appear more and more in food and beverage products. With numerous natural pigment being used in at least one of the sectors of the food industry, manufacturers of natural food colors should be looking at a period of sustained demand.

Interested in knowing more? Download a sample of the Natural Food Colours Market study.